Russell Takes 2nd on the GP3 Podium at Yas Marina Opener
George Russell battled back from a difficult start to the first GP3 Series race of the season to take a strong 2nd position on the podium at the penultimate race of the 2017 Season.
The 2017 GP3 Series Champion started from pole position after setting an untouchable pace on Friday to head the field for the opening race of the Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi Finale.
Russell made a decent start, albeit fellow front row starter Leonardo Pulcini made a great start to draw alongside him on the run into turn one. The 2017 GP3 Champion defended hard to shut the door - which gave the opportunity to Pulcini's Arden Motorsport teammate, Niko Kari to swoop around the outside of both of them to take the lead.
Russell had Pulcini all over his gearbox for the opening lap, as the drivers dealt with the hot and sand dusted track surface. After strongly defending on the first straight into turn 8, Pulcini managed to squeeze past into turn 11 - demoting Russell to 3rd position.
The top three maintained their gaps to each other in the opening laps, keeping just outside of the DRS Zone of each other throughout the early stages of the race. This was until a Virtual Safety Car Period on lap 5 when Marcos Siebert's Campos ground to a halt.
Russell made a great restart, getting up the inside of Pulcini into turn 20 - before he was harshly closed off and forced over the kerbs when taking evasive action to avoid contact.
Status-quo continued at the front, with Kari pulling out a 1.5s gap on his rivals behind, with Russell just 1s behind Pulcini. A second Virtual Safety Car period was triggered on lap 13, when Giuliano Alesi stopped on circuit at turn 19.
This time Russell managed to get past Pulcini, taking advantage on the restart to sweep around the outside of the Italian to take 2nd position.
Russell attempted to reduce Kari's lead in the remaining laps. Despite his best efforts, Russell was ultimately unsuccessful, as his rival managed the gap infront to secure his maiden victory of the season just ahead of the 2017 GP3 Series Champion.
George Russell "I made a slightly worse start than Pulcini and he got his nose alongside me and I had to close the door, which I managed to do: as I was on such a tight line it gave the opportunity to Niko to go around the outside of us both. So a great move by him.
We had 2 VSC sections in the race and I made great restarts from them both, unfortunately on the first one I was down the inside of Pulcini and he forced me onto the inside kerb, but on the 2nd restart I got past him.
I wanted to win this one for the team, but as you can see from the 4 of us it hasn’t been our strongest weekend here. But the team have done an unbelievable job all year and if there is one race where we’re not so strong, then so be it: we’re the team champions, so it’s been a great year.”
Russell took his seventh podium of the season on his way to the runners-up spot on the podium, this was his sixth out of eight Feature Race Podiums from the year - which has saw him so far take four victories, four pole positions and the GP3 Series Championship title.
Today also saw Russell achieve ART Grand Prix's 23rd Podium of the season!
Race Two will see Russell start the partially reversed race from 7th on the grid for the final GP3 Race of the 2017 Season.
The race begins at 12:50 GMT +4, once again live on Sky Sports F1 HD for the finale!